Colquhoun, Robert

An artist who was very successful during the 1940s but whose reputation declined over the next two decades. A Scottish artist, born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Colquhoun was encouraged by his head teacher at Kilmarnock Academy to specialize in drawing and painting. In 1929, because of the economic depression, he was forced to leave school and take an apprenticeship with an engineering company. Thanks, however, to funds raised by his head teacher, Colquhoun was able to resume his art studies and in 1932 he won a scholarhip to the Glasgow School of Art. There Robert Colquhoun and his fellow student Robert MacBryde formed a very close relationship which was to last all their lives. Together they spent five years at Glasgow School of Art, where they became known as ‘the Two Roberts’. Both Colquhoun and MacBryde were found to be unfit for military service during World War II and in 1941 they settled in London, in a spacious studio in Campden Hill. At first they shared the studio with John Minton and became drawn into the Neo-Romantic group of artists but by the mid-forties Colquhoun was painting in a bleaker, sharper and more aggressive style. This may have been due to the influence of Picasso’s brutal distortion of the human figure in his wartime paintings, which were exhibited at the V & A in 1945. In The Listener of 13th February,1947 Wyndham Lewis wrote that Colquhoun was ‘generally recognized as one of the best –perhaps the best – of the young artists’. His  painting, Lovers, was bought by the LACF in 1951. But success was short-lived. Colquhoun and MacBryde had become heavy drinkers and in 1947 their landlord evicted them from their studio because of their drunken behaviour. Their studio had been their home and losing it changed their lives. They lodged first with friends, then lived in a series of rented rooms, continuing to drink and in declining health. Colquhoun continued to paint but there was a noticeable lessening of his powers. Robert Colquhoun died suddenly from heart disease in September 1962.


Oil on canvas

Other pieces in our collection


Milow, Keith

c. 1970, Sculpture: resin and fibreglass, 122 x 244

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